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Alpha Natural Horsemanship

‘Ask with lightness, encourage without forcing, correct with softness’
30 60 90 Days Training
Abuse NeglectRehab Part 1
Abuse NeglectRehab Part 2
Aids & Cues What are they
Assess Diagnose beforeFix
Are all horses trainable
Be safer use a Dummy
Behavior Retraining Tips
Behavior Solving Issues
Buying first Horse Guide
Buying Training Older Hor
Buying a Horse Part 2
Buying a Horse Mismatched
Buying a Horse Selecting
CalmingTrg 1 sided horses
How to Communicate Horses
How horses Communicate
Cycles and Pyramid Trg
Establishing Leadership
Exercises Warm Up
Flexion Lateral
Flexion Proper Training
Flexion Vertical
Foundation GroundTraining
Foundation Mounted
How Horses Learn
Liability Release
Motivating HorsesandMules
Natural Survival Instinct
OTTB Re Education
Overcoming riding fear
Saddle Fitting
Selecting A Trainer
Soft Inside Light Outside
Spurs How to Use them
Teaching Strategy
TRAINING Ask Properly
TrainingGreenRarely Handl
Training Guidelines
Train Outside the Box
Training Principals
Training Pyramid Natural
Transfer GroundworkSaddle
Turning and Neck Reining
Winter Training Workouts

Overcoming Riding Fears

Anyone who has ridden for any length of time would be dishonest if they told you they have never felt fear. If you have any common sense at all, you should have a certain level of “healthy fear” whenever you get on a new horse. Call it “respect” if you prefer, but there is always an awareness that the 1000-pounds or so of bone and muscle you are sitting on is, physically, more powerful than you are.  Horses can jump sideways in the blink of an eye, rear, buck, or reach speeds over 25 miles per hour in a matter of seconds. They are also capable of using that physical power to perform incredible athletic feats like jumping, dressage, cutting, or reining. Our desire to become partners with our horses in those athletic endeavors makes us willing to take the risk of being thrown off or finding ourselves on a panicked runaway.  A bad experience, usually something that could not have been avoided no matter what the rider did, can turn healthy respect to fear. Once a rider has been physically hurt in an accident or even just really frightened it can take a while to rebuild confidence. The old rough-and-ready, cowboy up-style philosophy promised that if you just got right back on again, everything would be fine. However, suppressing fear seldom works long term. Neither does it help to tell someone to “just get over it.”

Fear is usually related to the rider’s skill level. The best way to overcome riding fears is to work on developing our horsemanship skills on the ground and in the saddle.  The strategy will give the rider the confidence the he or she has the ability to work through just about anything the horse might do. Riders also need to develop habits that allow them to stay focused mentally and emotionally in a rhythmic and relaxed way when their horse becomes excited or frightened. One of the partners has to stay calm in order to bring the other back to a focused state.

It is hard to get past your fear when you work by yourself. Finding a competent trainer/instructor who acknowledges your confidence crisis without either belittling it or catering to it is important. You need someone who understands, can identify the point where you are comfortable starting on the ground and help you in a logical progression to regain your confidence to move forward in the saddle.

Having the right horse or horses available can also be critical when you are trying to rebuild confidence. People who are afraid of riding often have good reason to be and they may have realized that they are over mounted on their own horse. Trying to work through fear on the same animal that caused your fears can be very difficult.  If you are fortunate you may the luxury of several horses to choose from.

Fear around horses is not limited to riding. Many people feel intimidated when they have to catch, lead or groom an unruly, ill-mannered horse. Even if they manage to dominate the horse using a chain lead shank or other artificial means, they may still have a queasy feeling because they know they are not really in charge of the situation. Here, again, a good trainer/instructor should be able to help a fearful rider learn how to confidently and safely work around and re-school a spoiled horse with bad ground manners.

Training methods aimed at making the rider “dominant” work only as long as nothing scarier or more dominant than the rider is in the horse’s immediate environment. Techniques that depend more severe equipment does result in permanent changes in the horse’s attitude or true confidence on the part of his handler. We use a groundwork system of exercises because it teaches the rider to pay attention to their horses at all times and teaches the horse to focus to its handler at all times. Through consistent handling with rhythm and relaxation from the moment they enter a horse’s stall until they put him away, they learn how to develop a rapport with their horses. The goal is to make the horse feel like the trainer or rider is the leader and is always the safest place to be whenever exciting or unusual things happen.  Taking horse training and riding lessons not only keeps the horses calm, but also teaches riders how to relax and stay calm. Lessons learned on the ground become habits that carry into their riding.

Every rider must eventually face fear and overcome it. Fear is not something to be ashamed of or to hide. When it happens to you, find a trainer/instructor with the right attitude, the right program of progressive skill training and the right horse to get you back on track again.